A shortage of freshwater looms on the horizon in the GCC if the current trend of water consumption in the region continues, according to findings by Orient Planet Research (OPR), an Orient Planet Group venture.
“There are more than 50m inhabitants across the GCC today and the figures could increase by approximately 14m by 2050. Given these projections, it is expected that the water demand is only going to climb. The water-intensive lifestyle that is prevalent in the Gulf countries as well as their steady economic progress are going to further widen the demand-supply gap in the future,” said Nidal Abou Zaki, managing director of Orient Planet Group.
An industry study predicts that the GCC’s future average consumption will hit 33,733m cu m by 2050. With the region’s projected future storage of only 25,855m cu m, the GCC, said the same study, will need an additional 77% water to meet the requirements of its populations 30 years from now.
Other industry estimates reveal an even higher number, putting the GCC’s annual water demand at over 50bn cu m by 2030. The region’s current population growth rates, water management approaches, and water use practices and consumption patterns have all been taken into account in computing the projected figure.
The OPR report has also determined that low levels of water reuse and recycling are putting intense pressure on the region’s water industry apart from the GCC’s growing population and economic strength.
GCC inhabitants rely on groundwater for their drinking water and other daily needs. Desalination and wastewater treatment are also the GCC’s main water sources. An industry report estimates that more than 50% of the world’s total desalination output is generated in the GCC.
The combined desalination capacity of GCC countries is expected to increase dramatically by 40% — from the current 18.18m cu m a day to more than 25m cu m a day – in the next five years. While desalination provides the needed supply, the OPR report points out that the process is costly and energy-intensive and contributes to environmental degradation.
Considering the risks, GCC governments have been seeking and implementing more sustainable alternatives, including desalination using solar energy. Policies encouraging efficient water management need to be implemented, such as addressing water subsidies.
Mr Abou Zaki said, “We expect to see the governments doubling their current efforts to catch up with the requirements of the region’s growing population.”